Friday, September 28, 2007

PR Fundamentals: Pitching a Story Idea published an article titled "Stepping Into a Reporters Shoes" (by Rachel Merenus) that explains the fundamental strategies for sharing your story idea with a journalist. There are a lot of great tips in the article but the most basic takeaway is to make sure you know your audience.

Marketing is all about identifying a target market, understanding them and then communicating with them in a compelling way. PR is no different.

If you are a "do-it-yourselfer" when it comes to PR, this article will definitely increase your chances of a successful pitch!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Google (V): Search Market Share over 50%

Everybody knows that Google is the #1 search engine but did you know that Google owns over half of the search market share?

On another note, the verb "to google" was entered into the newest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. This means that the brand "Google" has joined the likes of Kleenex and Xerox as being so well established that it's name becomes the name of the product category it occupies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Surprise Surprise! Advertising

A blog posting reminding us to look for unique channels to deliver our marketing message to consumers. Click here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mr. Happy Crack - How a little humor made a big brand for a small business tells the story of how a foundation crack repair company created a brand that generates a half million in sales annually... in just branded apparel!

Click here for details...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Small Business Discount Pricing - Summary of key points

Over the past few days, I've made it quite clear how I feel about discounting when it comes to long term brand value. Below I have summarized the key takeaways that every small business should consider before developing a discount promotional strategy.
1.) Discounting attracts price shoppers. These people are “transactional” and make their purchase decisions primarily on price and consider most things a commodity. Discounting affirms their belief that your product or service should be evaluated on price and conditions this shopper to look for the sale. Some businesses are very successful because of discount shoppers and there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that you are that type of business before you start discounting.
2.) Discounting can degrade the perception of quality. They say “price commands respect” and that is absolutely true (within reason). If you can justify your product or service being more expensive than the competition, then it should be and you should be proud of that! Just make sure the consumer knows why and don’t contradict yourself by deep discounting. In this type of situation, look for ways to add value instead (See Dangers of Desperate Discounting: Dominion Homes post).
3.) When setting prices, don’t fall for the $X.99” cliché approach just to eek out an extra dollar. Go up or down with the price and remember that the right most digit is what shapes the perception of the deal. If an item is originally priced $289, a discount price of $221 may seem like a better deal than $209.
4.) And finally… if you must discount, use a percentage off instead of dollars off. By using percentages, consumers are less likely to ever realize what they actually paid for the product. Therefore they are less likely to evaluate your product on that price the next time they are making a purchase.

There is a lot more to consider when running a discount sale than many small businesses ever realize. It really all comes down to short term vs. long term results. If you are struggling with your pricing/discount strategy, let me know and I'd be happy to discuss with you personally. (

To avoid belaboring the subject, this will be my last post in this series. Please feel free to comment!

The Psychology of Discount Pricing

Another article on discounting that provides even more enlightenment on the subject. Retailers like to discount using dollar off promotions. They advertise sales like "10 for $10" because they want the savings to be memorable! If they advertised 15% off, I may never take the time to do the math and know exactly what I paid for the item.

The specific dollar off discount strategy benefits "low price" retailers because they get to reinforce their claim of having low prices and great deals. On the contrary, this is bad for the brand because consumers will easily remember what they paid for the item the last time they shopped. Then, when it isn't on sale, they may think that it isn't worth paying full price.

This study claims that when the percentage off discount strategy is used, consumers are more likely to accept the product at full price the next time they shop.

Not earth shattering but interesting and another tip for any small business marketer.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Consumer Perception of Sale Prices... Less is More

The Journal of Consumer Research released a new study showing that consumers determine the value of a sale price based primarily on the right digit. If the right digit is less than 5, the sale price is perceived as a greater value.

"The researchers show that "right-digit effect" influences consumer perception of sale prices. When the right digits are small, people perceive the discount to be larger than when the right digits are large. In other words, an item on sale for $211 from the original price of $222 is thought to be a better deal than an item on sale for $188 from an original price of $199, even though both discounts are $11."

Small Business Marketing Lesson:

Don't be fooled by the traditional "$X.99" approach to pricing and discounting. Experiment with the "right-digit effect" the next time you are setting prices and see how it goes.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Dangers of Desperate Discounting: Dominion Homes

I was at the post office this afternoon when I heard a radio spot for Dominion Homes, a Columbus, OH based home builder, advertising a special promotion: “$55,000 off select inventory homes.” I was filling out a priority mail address sticker when I heard this so I thought to myself, “surely I heard that wrong.” I continued to listen and before the spot ended, they said it again, “$55,000 off select inventory homes.” When I realized my ears weren’t deceiving me, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Discounting is a dangerous game for any business, especially home builders. There are two major problems with the “$55,000 off” promotion (besides the obvious).

1.) BRAND VALUE: This promotion takes the cake for the most desperate sounding home builder campaign I have ever heard. They might as well run a radio spot announcing that their homes are over-priced, they aren’t selling and their profit is no longer important as long as they unload a few houses. “Oh, and we’re desperate.”

Rather than creating value through the brand, credibility of the business, extra features and confidence in the stability of the company, they are telling everyone to make their purchase decision primarily on price.

I understand the struggle between short-term sales results and long-term brand building but, to reference a previous post, attracting transactional shoppers with a promotion this extreme, absolutely alienates relational buyers.

I don’t know the details of the promotion because it isn’t on their website (tisk tisk Dominion… you must have missed my “offline advertising drives 67% of web searchers” post). However, I’m sure it is extremely limited and only applies to very few homes. So why belittle the brand only to drive transactional shoppers who will be angry when they realize the promotions limitations?

2.) CUSTOMER VALUE: As the marketing guy at Lifestyle Communities, I conducted a survey the results of which showed that homeowners believe there is a direct correlation between the value of the brand that built their home and the value of their investment. In other words, the value of their home is tied to the value of the brand that built it. Dominion is continuing to remind everyone that their brand is damaged goods. “No seriously, we’re desperate.” (read about the Dominion debacle here)

What happens when the promotion is over? “My neighbor got a $55,000 discount and I don’t?”

To borrow a term from one of my favorite books, Blue Ocean Strategy, "innovate value" instead of discounting value! Be creative and develop promotional strategies that increase the value perceived by the customer. Do this without increasing the price and you are innovating value.

Lesson for Small Business Marketers:

Promotions are great but there is a fine line between discounts and desperation. Don’t discount your revenue when you need it the most. Be creative and find ways to add value instead.

Examples of innovating value through promotions:

Bank – instead of free business checking accounts… business checking accounts with free online bill pay.

Hair Salon – instead of 50% off next visit… free bottle of shampoo with next visit.

Wine store – instead of 25% off select wines… two free tickets to weekly wine tasting event with $100 purchase.

Car wash – instead of buy one get one free… but one get free vacuuming.

HOMEBUILDER – instead of $55,000 off select homes… $5,000 in free upgrades. (Yes, that’s 4 digits not 5).

Let your brand, quality product and reputation do the rest of the selling.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ebay: Free Listings Promotion for September

There has never been a better time to experiment with what Ebay can do for your small business! If you have a product and have always wondered how it would sell online, start an Ebay store for ~$15.00/month and start listing! Ebay is running a promotion this month: any item under $10.00 = no insertion fee and any item over $10.00 the insertion fee is discounted by 25%.

Even if you are currently selling products on your own website, there is no better way to reach millions of potential buyers than by listing your products on Ebay. The objective is to get your products in the ebay search engine results! Your current site will not give you that type of direct exposure through normal search engines such as Google. Once people are on your Ebay store, they can click over to your actual site to see ALL of your products.

The Ebay community is huge and for just pennies per item, you can reach millions of potential buyers.

Offline Advertising Drives 67% of Online Searchers!

More fuel for those who preach the importance of search engine optimization! Offline advertising such as television and magazine ads drive more than 67% of online search users.

Lesson for Small Business Marketer:

A critical part of any marketing campaign that can no longer be overlooked is whether or not your website is ranked fairly high in the search engines. Your offline marketing campaign will generate interest and drive prospects to the search engines for more information. Will they find you or your competition?

According to the "iProspect Offline Channel Influence on Online Search Behavior Study," conducted by JupiterResearch, 67% of the online search population is driven to search by offline channels. It also revealed that 39% of online searchers who are influenced by offline channels ultimately make a purchase. This 39% conversion rate suggests a synergistic relationship exists between search and offline channels, concludes the study.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Relational vs. Transactional Shoppers - Who do your ads attract?

Roy Williams, for, wrote an article about ads and how there are basically two different types of ads:
1.) Ads that attract transactional shoppers
Transactional Shoppers:
A. Thinks short term.
B. Cares only about today's transaction.
C. Enjoys the process of shopping and negotiating.
D. Fears only paying more than he had to pay.
E. Is willing to spend lots of time investigating.
F. Considers himself an expert.
G. Hinges every transaction on price.

2.) Ads that attract relational shoppers
Relational Shoppers:
A. Thinks long term.
B. Considers today's transaction to be one in a series of many.
C. Doesn't enjoy comparison shopping or negotiating.
D. Fears only making a poor choice.
E. Hopes to find an expert he or she can trust.
F. Considers her time spent shopping to be part of the purchase price.
G. Is likely to become a repeat customer.

He then explains how to design ads to appeal to each. He cautions that attracting transactional shoppers is dangerous because they only care about price and discounts. If you design too many ads or promotions that attract this type of customer, they will eventually become conditioned to only purchase from you when you are having a sale or discount offer.

Though transactional customers are easy to attract immediately, there is value in being patient and designing a brand/ad campaign that builds relationships and makes your product or service desirable at the normal price. When you aren't desperate for sales, which customer will you want more of?

This article is a MUST read for any small business marketer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Would Dave Approve? Wendy's New Ad Campaign

Advertising Age: "Since Mr. Thomas passed away in 2002, Wendy's has struggled to develop ads without its trusty star. ..."

"What Dave built was a fast-food place that wasn't a fast-food place," said one insider. "But when Dave died, they froze the place in amber."

Wendy's is getting opposition from the founder's family for random ads featuring men in red wigs. I have to agree with the family on this one.

Zagat recently declared Wendy's the "best burger" in the fast food category! Their value menu is brilliantly comprehensive! Their food is far superior to that of Burger King and McDonalds! Yet they choose to market themselves with an ad campaign that looks so similar to a Burger King ad that I wouldn't know the difference if it wasn't for the wig.

I agree that Dave built a fast foot restaurant that wasn't fast food. His ad campaigns were unique in that they were classy, comfortable and all about the food. Every other fast food ad campaign targets men 18-30. Who needs men 18-30 when you can have every other demographic segment that fast food advertising alienates? "Subservient Chicken?" Need I say more?

The Marketing Guy

p.s. The premise of the advertising campaign is that you don't have to be like everyone else. The irony is that Wendy's is doing just that!!

"I'll have my advertising with a side of TV"

According to Nielsen Media Research, men 18 to 34 spend roughly two hours a day online (the most of any male age bracket), although that's still lower than their time spent watching television and listening to the radio daily. According to a Maxim sponsored study conducted by Hall & Partners, 74% of men think TV is a better advertising medium. Click here for the full article.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

How to Make Your Customers Scream (in a good way)

I attended the Ohio State vs. Youngstown State game this past Saturday and took this picture with my cell phone. As I stood amongst over 100,000 screaming Ohio State fans, one thing occurred to me - Ohio State is one powerful brand. Companies spend billions of dollars to create a brand that people will get excited about and very few are successful. It all comes down to experiences. If people have great experiences that they can associate with your business, and you do this consistently, they will become fans and develop a passion for your brand. This approach to branding has been termed “Experiential Marketing” Wikipedia defines experiential marketing as follows:

Experiential marketing is a methodology, a concept that moves beyond the traditional “features-and-benefits” marketing. Experiential Marketing connects consumers with brands in personally relevant and memorable ways.

The idea of experiential marketing reflects a right brain bias because it is about fulfilling consumers’ aspirations to experience certain feelings – comfort and pleasure on one hand, and avoidance of discomfort and displeasure on the other. Experiential marketing occurs in person. It is a direct interaction one-on-one between a brand and an individual consumer. This experience creates a stronger relationship with the consumer.

When I was the "marketing guy" (marketing director) for Lifestyle Communities, we placed a lot of value on creating positive brand experiences. We actually purchased the naming rights to a popular concert venue in downtown Columbus, Ohio to connect our brand to fun, lifestyle events.

As a small business, what can you do to create experiences for your customers? It can be as simple as a holiday party or a golf outing. Or, it can even be the experience of doing business with you! Make every interaction a pleasurable, memorable experience. Only when your potential customers start to experience your brand will they become screaming fans!